Monday, September 9, 2013

Brett Hull: "I'm glad I'm back"

Blues name former scoring great vice president; focus will be on business side

ST. LOUIS -- Brett Hull made a name and living for himself on the ice with the Blues.

He terrorized opposing goalies with his precise wristers and slap shots in the slot for 11 seasons. The 527 pucks on stage Monday night represented each puck he put into the net during his playing days for the Blues.

Now 15 years after departing as an unrestricted free agent, Brett Hull returns to the place where his playing career took off in hopes of injecting life into the business side of the organization.

Blues chairman Tom Stillman (left) and president of business
operations Bruce Affleck (right) introduce Brett Hull as an executive
vice president Monday night at Scottrade Center.
Blues chairman Tom Stillman made the announcement that the 49-year-old Hull, who is the franchise's leading goal scorer with 527, has been named executive vice president who will focus on the business side.

"We are pleased to announce that Brett Hull is coming home to the St. Louis Blues," Stillman said in front of an audience at the Scottrade Center atrium of roughly 500 fans. "Brett Hull belongs with the Blues. It makes all the sense in the world for him to be here. We've thought that from Day One, but we wanted it to work in the right way where it's good for Brett and good for the organization. We think it's a great thing for all concerned.

Hull, who had been working in the Dallas Stars' front office since 2007, was originally acquired by the Blues on March 7, 1988 from the Calgary Flames for goalie Rick Wamsley and forward Steve Bozek and a city that was down on its hockey team suddenly fell in love with Hull and the franchise. He spent 11 seasons with the Blues, setting a plethora of club records and placing his name into the NHL records books.

"I never wanted to leave," Hull said. "Fifteen years ago ... and I'm glad I'm back, I'll tell you that.

"... My wife Darcie and I, it was a little over a year when we started talking about that this might be a possibility (of coming back to St. Louis), I don't think it took more than a couple sentences to convince her that this was a wonderful place and a place that we can call, I guess, our new home."

Last week, the Blues changed titles of general manager Doug Armstrong, adding president of hockey operations to his duties and naming Bruce Affleck to president of business operations, perhaps opening up a spot for Hull to join the organization.

Hull will be working hand-in-hand with Affleck, who is also a Blues alumni and a close friend of Hull's.

"I'm proud to finally have you where you belong in St. Louis," Affleck said, referring to Hull.

Hull will be responsible in the aiding of ticket sales, selling suites, adding sponsors and season tickets to an already growing area.

"I'm basically the vice president and working to get new business and to solidify business and grow revenue so that Doug can get free agents and that we can sign our great young players to contracts when they're up and to continue to have a team going this way instead of roller-coastering up and down and something the fans can be proud of year after year," Hull said.

"It's hard economic times. It's a small market," Hull added. "It's not like we're the New York Rangers who have a TV deal that helps everything. We need to dig in our heels and get to work and show the community that we're a class group. I think anybody in the community and the business community sees a team that is classy and is doing the right things not only on the ice but off the ice in the community that they'll jump on board and be a part of it as well."

Hull, who is part of two Stanley Cup winners in Dallas (1999) and Detroit (2002), won't turn down the offers if he were to be asked anything on the hockey operations side, though.

"I can't say I'm not going to help if Doug asks me a question," Hull said. "I'm not going to say, 'I can't help you.' I think that's where I can help out and I think it's where the organization and in the smaller market like St. Louis, that's where we really need to bolster the franchise. I think I can be a big help that way.

"It's going to be a big learning curve for me, but I think working with Bruce and Eric (Stisser) in the front office and obviously Tom in the front office, we can put together a great group that can push this team to a high level."

In Hull's 11 seasons with the Blues (1988-98), he recorded 527 goals, 67 playoff goals, 117 playoff points, 27 regular season hat tricks and played in 102 playoff games, which are all franchise records. He's second all-time in club history in regular season points (936), regular season assists (409) and playoff assists (50).

Blues executive vice president Brett Hull addresses the audience
after being named to the Blues' front office Monday night.
Stillman is banking on using Hull's past and present stature to enhance the team's product in the community.

"When Brett Hull is in town, there is a buzz," Stillman said. "People are excited. There is something special about his effect on St. Louis."

Hull's tenure in St. Louis ended when the Blues chose not to resign him following the 1998 season. He went onto sign a free agent contract with the Stars -- coached by current Blues coach Ken Hitchcock -- and scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal against Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. Hull then signed on with the Red Wings, winning a second Stanley Cup. But he said Monday that although he could never win one as a player with the Blues, winning one in an executive role would be just as sweet.

"Absolutely. It'll feel wonderful," Hull said. "Not even for me. I know what it's going to feel like for me, but can you imagine how wonderful it'll feel for these fans of St. Louis who have been so loyal to the organization for so long?

"It's been 15 years. A lot of the relationships that I've had have never really left. There's been a little bit of distance between us, but it's a city that I grew to love when I played here, the fan base, the organization I've always loved. When Tom got the team last year, I was very excited because we talked about his passion and where he wanted to lead this team. That's the way I thought it should be and should have been done ever since I've been a part of it. It's nice to have an owner who has that idea."

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